No more ‘Vakabu’ offence, Malawi court rules Rogue and vagabond law ‘unconstitutional’

The High Court in Blantyre  has ruled that rogue and vagabond offence is unconstitutional.

Lawyer Mandala Mambulasa (L) with Gwanda outside the court: Case won

The determination was made by a panel of three judges comprising High Court judges Zione Ntaba, Michael Mtambo and Slyvester Kalembera,  meeting as  a constitutional court.

Astreet vendor Mayeso Gwanda took the matter to Constitutional Court  challenging the constitutionality of Section 184 (1) (c) of the Penal Code which provides that “every person in or upon or near any premises or in any road or highway or any place adjacent thereto or in any public place at such time and under such circumstances as to lead to the conclusion that such person is there for an illegal or disorderly purpose, is deemed a rogue and vagabond.”

Gwanda was arrested around 4am in March 2015 at Chichiri near a bus stop while walking from Chilomoni Township along the Masauko Chipembere Highway going to Limbe.

With plastic bags in hands, he was stopped by police and asked where he was going. He explained but was later taken to Soche Police.

He was later taken to court and was charged with rogue and vagabond.

Gwanda,who was helped by the  Southern Africa Litigation Centre (Salc) and the Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) , “argued that the offence of rogue and vagabond results in a number of rights violations, including his rights to dignity, privacy, freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment, freedom and security of person, freedom from discrimination, and freedom of movement.”

The judges agreed with Gwanda and declared the offence “unconstitutional.”

Gwanda’s lawyer Mandala Mambulasa, said he was pleased with the conclusion of the case.

The case was joined by  friends of the court who included Legal Aid Bureau (LAB), Malawi Law Society (MLS), Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (Pasi) and Chreaa.

Chreaa executive director Victor Mhango said  they conducted a the study  which identified gaps in the law and that the poor and marginalised groups such as prostitutes have been unfairly targeted.

“The harsh effects of minor nuisance-related offences are felt most by the poor, who are unfairly targeted by these laws and who do not have easy access to legal representation and family resources once arrested,” said Mhango.

The research was aimed at ascertaining the extent of police enforcement of the rogue and vagabond law and it focused on the arrest practices of Blantyre and Limbe police stations and included interviews with magistrates, police officers and sex workers.

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21 thoughts on “No more ‘Vakabu’ offence, Malawi court rules Rogue and vagabond law ‘unconstitutional’”

  1. His Excellence the Life President Wolemekedzeka Mkango Lion Chivomerezi Chisokonezo Artillery ArchMissile Manthakanjenjemereza says:

    This is very outdated law which was affecting Malawi economy, people were fearing to walk at night for the fear of police. Businesses were closing early.

  2. scaredem says:

    The high court in Blantyre has declared ( just a section of Rogues and Vagabonds law in the penal code) Rogue and Vagabond have five sections and only section 184 sub sec 1(e) is now invalid.
    Sec (a) Every person going about as a gather or collector of alms or endeavouring to procure charitable contributions of any nature or kind under. fraudulent pretense -STILL VALID
    (b) every suspected person or reputable thief who has no visible means of substance and cannot give a good account of himself- STILL VALID
    (c) every person found in or near any premises or in road or highway or any place adjacent thereto or in any public place at such time and such circumstances as to lead to the conclusion that such personalities is there for illegal or disorderly purpose- THIS SECTION IS NOW INVALID (police can not arrest you for this)
    (d) every person who without the prior consent in writing in that behalf of the DC collects or make any appeal for subscription of money in any public place for any purpose – STILL VALID
    (e)every person who collected money by subscription in any place in Malawi who fails to produce to a DC or to publish in a newspaper named of the disposal thereof when called upon so to do by such DC
    Shall be deemed to be a argue and vagabond and shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be liable for the first offense to imprisonment for six months and for every subsequent offense to imprisonment for eighteen months
    So laws on rogue and vagabonds still exist BUT only section (c) above has been removed( invalidated)
    Police still will arrest people under law of rogue and vagabond except section (c)

  3. Kwayipa says:

    Well done, nthawi zina amagwila munthu akuchokela kumaliro.

    1. Miss B says:

      I know right. I was coming from the ATM around 3am i was withdrawing cash and the police threatened to call the patrol car coz am not supposed to be walking around at that time of that hour. WHAT THE HELL

  4. George says:

    Commendable job by the COURT.

  5. collins says:

    y now all this time pple ‘be bin victimised

  6. Prof. Dr. Malawimotobuu says:

    But put police security tight during night. People will take an advantage to steal

  7. grey says:

    In Townships there are Neighborhood watch, how far is their operation boundary?

  8. thomas newa says:

    Kwacha ku malawi apolice amanyanya mpaka kumagogoda m ma room akuti vakabu kuphwanya ufulu wa a nthu oti akugona alipira room why?

  9. veteran says:

    You have stolen too much from the poor.Watsala wa atraffic nawnso akuba mopanda manyazi . Electronic system should be.introduced we are fed up of their corruption . Akapolo opanda manyazi. Malawi is waking up coz through my travelling outside the country I have seen that people are free to move any time.The police patrol is ever doing their patrol not harassing citizens. Go to Tete you will be surprised. Why forcing somebody to go to bed ???

  10. Nastc says:

    This is dangerous. Rising umbava in the towns and villages. I tell u, Vakabu imathandiza kuchepetsa umbava m’madera mu.. It’s unfortunate that they were being abused, but I guess the court shld hv advised on framing the law to avoid/minimise room for abuse,,, otherwise outright out-lawing will create grave consequences…

    1. Twiza says:

      That’s what they have done. They have advised the Police accordingly

  11. Winyo says:

    Lamulo lanji longopita kwa anthu osauka okha? Lamulo lopezelela anthu oyenda wapansi…Kudos to the Judges! Pyo..Pyo..Pyo…90 minutes yakwana…Mwatibela kokwana

  12. Jijoxy says:

    Mbava ziyende momasuka tsopano. Just that our law enforcers sometimes don’t think very well. Gwanda was victimized and there are many others who have sad stories in application of this law. But the biggest victims have been prostitutes. Kukawakokolola pamowa poti palinso azibambo yet azibambo osawatenga. My only worry is akuba aziyenda momasuka, now police cannot question them.

  13. to the disappointment of our “trigger happy” stupid police men kkkkkk

  14. kampangomlamba says:


  15. nankununkha says:

    Courts favaour criminalities because for them it’s job security

  16. Wanga ndi yemweyo says:

    Now poor citizens who are stranded will have the freedom to make efforts to reach their destinations on foot. I have always wondered why only pedestrians have been targeted by this law despite abundant evidence that robbers who carry out their missions at night usually use vehicles. This will also help prevent our law enforcers from contracting STDs. These guys have been demanding that ladies caught during “vakabu” should buy their freedom by offering their bodies to the men in uniform. I know most of them are not happy because of the loss of these favours. Sorry guys, game over.

  17. uchi says:

    apa zili bwino kumamangidwa munthu ukupita kwanu nde ziti zimenezo

  18. Moya says:

    this has been long overdue. now, parliament must repeal this crazy law forthwith.

Comments are closed.